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How to Clean Paint Rollers

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One of the quickest and cheapest ways to change the look of a room or piece of furniture is to paint it. A paint roller is one of the best tools for most painting jobs. With the same amount of work, a paint roller can cover more area than a paintbrush, and some paint roller frames have handles that can be extended to give you more reach. The rollers and frames come in a variety of widths and textures so you can get the results you want.

Lots of people who do their own work are lazy and just throw away the paint roller when they’re done. That’s one way to clean up, but buying a new roller for every job can get expensive, especially if you want to paint more than one room or piece. Also, higher-quality paint roller covers that cost a bit more (and that you’ll want to use again and again to get your money’s worth) will give you a better paint finish.

How to Clean Paint Rollers

If you follow the instructions for each type of paint, it’s easy to clean a paint roller. We’ll look at how to clean a paint roller, frame, and paint tray so you can save money and your tools.

Paint Rollers

How Often Should a Paint Roller Be Cleaned?

At the end of each time you paint, you should clean your paint roller. When the paint is still wet, it is much easier and more effective to clean up. Don’t forget to clean the frame of the roller and the paint tray, too.


During a painting session, if you need to take a short break, put the paint roller in a large plastic bag and tie the bag around the handle. Put the paint tray in a different bag and tie it shut. This will stop the paint from drying so you can keep working.

What You Need to Know

Equipment / Tools

  • Bucket
  • Putty knife
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Help for your eyes
  • Materials
  • Liquid to clean dishes
  • Mineral water
  • Newspaper
  • Old rags
  • Disposable container

How to Clean a Paint Roller of Latex or Water-Based Paint

Remove Excess Paint

Paint rollers are made of fibers that can soak up a lot of paint. Use a putty knife to gently scrape any extra paint back into the can. Hold the roller perpendicular to the opening of the can and move slowly and gently down and around the roller’s surface.

Finish by touching up any bare spots on your wall with the paint left on the roller or rolling the extra paint on newspapers until the roller stops releasing paint.

To clean the frame, take off the Roller.

Pull the roller off the frame while protecting your hands with rubber gloves. When the paint is still wet on the frame, it is much easier to clean it. Put a few drops of dishwashing liquid and some warm water in a bucket. Use an old rag or a brush with stiff bristles to clean the paint off the frame and handle of the roller. Set it aside to dry in the air.

Clean the Roll

Put the roller in the bucket with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Massage the paint out of the fibers of the roller with your hands, making sure to clean every surface.

Wash out the Roller

To clean the roller, use a stream of fresh water or a fresh bucket of water. This could take some time. Shake the extra water off.

Roll the Dryer

Don’t let the roller dry on its side, because this will make the fibers flat. Set it on its end or drape it over a clothes hanger to dry.

Wash out the paint tray.

Use a bucket of soapy water to clean the paint tray. Remove any dried paint along the edges with a brush with stiff bristles.

If you have time and are using a plastic tray or liner, you can let the paint dry and then just peel it off. The results of this method can be different.

A stiff-bristled brush, water, and dish soap are used to clean a black paint tray.

Get rid of the Water for Cleaning

Since there are bits of paint in the cleaning water, you should never pour it down a stormwater drain.

Pour the water down a sewer drain that leads to a place that cleans water.

How to Clean a Paint Roller of Oil-Based Paint

As with latex paint, you should always get as much paint off the roller as you can. The biggest difference between cleaning paint rollers after using oil-based paint and water-based paint is that oil-based paint needs to be removed with a solvent like mineral spirits. 1

Clean the frame of the roller and the paint tray.

Mineral spirits can be used to wet an old rag and scrub any paint off the roller frame and paint tray. To get rid of dried paint, you might need to use a brush with stiff bristles or pour a small number of mineral spirits into the paint tray.

Clean the Roller with a solvent.

Put enough mineral spirits in a bucket so that the paint roller is completely covered. Use a small container to cut down on the amount of solvent you need. Using your hands and rubber gloves, work the solvent through the paint roller’s fibers. It will take between five and ten minutes. Take the roller out of the mineral spirits and squeeze out as much of the extra mineral spirits as you can with your gloved hands.

Pour the dirty mineral spirits into a container that can be thrown away. Use an old rag to clean out the bucket. Fill up the bucket with enough new mineral spirits to clean the roller. After you’ve rinsed the roller, give it a gentle squeeze to get rid of any extra solvent.

Put some warm water and a few drops of dish soap in a bucket. Use soapy water to clean the paint roller one last time. Rinse well with clean water and gently wring out the extra water. The roller can be put on its end or hung up to dry.

Pour the last of the mineral spirits into the trash can. Always follow the rules for getting rid of the container set by your city or town.